October Horror Month
Charles Band’s Full Moon film production company have been turning out strange and entertaining low budget horror films since 80s and have been the company behind a lot of the wok of Re-Animator director Stuart Gordon. One their longest running series of film is the Puppetmaster series revolving around puppeteer Andre Toulon who comes across the secret of animating inanimate objects and use this to create his puppets.
It is 1939 the Puppetmaster Andre Toulon (William Hickey) is working on his puppets in his room at the Bodega Bay Inn on the coast of California. His puppets are unique since they are animated and move around on their own. One of his puppets, a Mandarin watches out of the window as Toulon put the finishes touches to the paintwork of Jester whose head is in three parts that spin independently and allows his expression to change. He puts his head over the head of the puppet says some magic words and Jester comes to life
Two German agents arrive at the hospital and they are looking for Toulon. Another of Toulon’s puppets the skull-headed Blade was keeping watch outside and when he sees them he rushes back upstairs and there’s a nice bit of POV camera work here.
Toulon already knows they are on their way and he packs his puppet up in a large trunk, including blade when he finally gets up to the room. He hides the trunk behind a panel in the wall and just as the agents get to the door he puts a gun in his mouth and blows his brains out
Forward to the present or at least the 80s version of the present and four psychics in different parts of the US have visions. Alex Whitaker (Paul Le Mat) is in his office when he has a vision of young woman with a man who puts a gun to her head. Dana Hadley (Irene Miracle) is at a fairground working as a fortune teller giving a BS reading to a couple when she gets a real vision sees woman being attacked. Psychic researchers Clarissa Stamford (Kathryn O’Reilly) and Frank Forrester (Matt Roe) get a call from Alex and Frank says Dana has been in touch too. They all agree it is a message from an associate Neil Gallagher (Jimmie F. Skaggs) and Frank is sure it means Gallagher has found the Puppetmaster’s hideout and Dana knows where he is.
When they get to the Bodega Bay Inn they are shocked to discover that Gallagher is dead and almost as shocked to find out that he married the inn’s owner Megan (Robin Frates). Megan was expecting them because Gallagher left instruction that he wasn’t to be buried until they got there but she has no idea who they are. Megan takes them into a room where Gallagher’s body is in a coffin and he certainly looks dead. Megan is upset since there was no hint the Gallagher was suicidal. The psychics are puzzled because they had never sensed Gallagher killing himself.
Alex gets taken up to his room by Megan and he tells Megan that they are psychics who used to work with Gallagher. Clarissa Frank and Dana stay behind to pay respect to Gallagher but they really want know how he died without them sensing it. Dana takes out a very long needle and pushes it into his chest and through his heart and concludes he’s definitely dead but they know Gallagher too well to think he isn’t still up to something.
The hotel chambermaid Theresa (Mews Small) shows Dana to her room and Dana burns some strange wood and waves the smoke around the room and around Theresa to cleanse her aura Dana says. Dan warns he to stay away from the fireplace because he can sense something bad will happen to Theresa a the fireplace. When Dana unpacks a small stuffed dog from her luggage Theresa leaves, thinking Dana is crazy
When Theresa takes Frank and Clarissa up to their Clarissa senses that Frank raped a woman in the elevator and Theresa suggests that they keep that to themselves and not tell Megan about it. In their room Clarissa is very excited to sense that their bed is a movie star bed snddhrsay s Calrk Gable and Carole Lombard had sex there. Clarissa’s powers work though her emotions and she is especially good at sensing sexual emotions but Frank reminds her that they are here on business.
At dinner that evening everyone is curious about how she met and married Gallagher. Gallagher was staying at the inn when about her parents and Gallagher was very kind and helped her get over their deaths. When Gallagher asked her to marry him she was only too happy to accept. After they were married Gallagher suggested they close down the inn for remodelling and Gallagher would spend all his time there in the rooms that were being remodelled until he killed himself. Once Mega finshes he story Dana tells Megan what Gallagher was really like. He had gathered them together to get their help in discovering the secrets of the alchemists. The last known alchemist was Toulon the Puppetmaster who could give life to inanimate objects but Neil ran out on them when he found Toulon’s last resting place and they are here to find out what Gallagher discovered.
Theresa is bust poking the fire in the lounge and she hears a noise at the piano but when she looks no-one is there so she goes back to the fire. She hears someone playing with piano so she goes back to check and again no-one is there. She goes back to the fire but the poker is missing and the Pinhead puppet with the big muscular body and tiny head thwacks her on the back of the head with the poker.
Later they hear megan scream and find her passed out in th lounge. Gallagher’s body has been propped up in a chair and this gave her a shock when she came. They speculate about who could have done it and since Theresa had gone missing so they blame her. Alex stays with Megan until she comes round. Alex tell her about his dream and that he came here to make sure his dreams didn’t come true
Clarissa and Frank are going to try to get in touch with Gallagher by having lots of extremely noisy kinky sex that involves Frank being tied to the bed and blindfolded while Clarissa rides him. It’s certainly different from the usual séance. The noise of their research keeps Alex and Dana awake so Dana gets drunk and Alex goes for a walk. Alec sees Dana I corridor who warn him that Gallagher intends to kill them all> She invite Alex to come into her room to do some research of their own but Alex is not interested and he heads off downstairs
We get a puppet POV in the corridor where their rooms and the puppet drags a chair to a door outside and through the keyhole it sees . It the drag the chair to the next door and sees Frank and Clarissa he door opens and the Tunneller puppet enters the room and hides under the bed. Clarissa thinks she something moving and she gets off Frank to look under the bed. She sees the puppet dressed like an Italian officer and with drill on the top of his head. Tunneller starts his drill and rams straight into Clarrissa’s face. Frank has no idea what going on be but he likes it when he feels something soft and wet on his skin. He’s not so happy about it when he gets the blindfold off and discovers that he’s being covered in leeches by the Leech Woman puppet.
When Dana gets back in her rom she finds Gallagher’s boy body in and she waves her charm stuff. Pinhead rushes her breaks her leg and throws he onto the floor then he tries to choke her but she throws him away. She crawls out into corridor but Pinhead recovers and comes after her and manages to land a few punches before Dana throw s him over stairwell. Now Blade comes after her, cutting her with his little knife. She get into the elevator and gets out at the ground floor but Pinhead is waiting there for her and he punches and she throws him away again but Blade was waiting on the roof of the elevator and slits her throat
Mrs Gallagher knock on Alex’s door and wakes him up she wants to show him something and takes him up to a big empty white room where she dances with a man wearing a white mask. When he takes the mask off it’s Gallagher under the mask and he shoots Megan and Alex wakes up in bed. Megan knocks on the door and what happens next is just like in his dream so much that he can finish what Megan says to him. She takes him to a padlocked door but in the dream this led to the large white room. This time there’s a desk with Toulon’s diary. Alex reads that Toulon feared what his puppets will do under the control of someone evil. Alex get a sense of where the others are and they go into the dining room and see Frank Clarissa and Dane all sitting at the table dead and the Tunneller puppet is on the table and the others are around the room.
Gallagher enter and Megan says that he‘s dead which Gallagher confirms. But Gallagher has found Toulon’s secret and used it to make himself immortal. Alex points out that only means he can’t die a natural death he can still be killed. He brought the others here to kill them in order to keep Toulon’s secret to himself because with their psychic connection there was a risk one of the other would discover it too. Gallagher also killed Megan parent and married her to get full access to the inn. He also used their bodies test the Puppetmaster’s methods to reanimate her dead parents. He says he finished with using puppets which is not something that happy about.
When Megan protest at what he’s done Gallagher punches Megan and the puppets really don’t like that. Gallagher attacks Alex and Megan smashes vase over Gallagher’s head to save Alex and they try to get out of inn but the doors are locked and the front door is blocked by a reanimated Theresa. Gallagher fights with Alex and is really beating him badly but Alex manages to trap him in the lift shutting Gallagher in. Pinhead is already in there and he starts attacking Gallagher but Gallagher throws him aside and pulls off his head. The other puppets enter through the hatch on the roof of the lift and they all attack Gallagher together and tear him apart then Leech Woman drop one of leeches in his mouth and Gallagher dies.
Alex and Megan are the only ones left alive Alex says goodbye and leaves. Megan lift up Dana’s stuffed dog and walks up the stair and when we see her at the top of the stair the dog is completely alive suggesting Megan always knew Andre Toulon’s secret.
This film is like a small chapter in a larger story and it feels like a sequel. The puppets are pretty well done but they feel a bit underused and aren’t really at the core of the story. The human actors were mostly passable but the lead seemed more wooden than the puppets. The back story of Toulon’s run in with the Nazis hints at a much more interesting story but that had to wait until Puppetmaster 3. Despite its flaws I enjoy watching this film and many of series the sequels that followed are entertaining